EDIT: March 4th, 2018 – I WAS RIGHT TO LOVE THIS FILM! The Shape of Water has won four Oscars for Best Production Design, Best Original Score, Best Director, and BEST PICTURE!
I have never been blown away by a film as this one. It’s like Tim Burton, Doctor Seuss, Steven Spielberg and old Hammer Horror films (yes there’s a reference and it’s perfect) all rolled into one. This is possibly my favorite film of 2017…
So I’ll try to review without bias…
The Shape of Water
PLOT – A mute woman (Sally Hawkins) working janitorial services in a 1962 government lab discovers an Amphibian Man (Doug Jones) and falls in love with him. With the help of her coworker (Octavia Spencer), a helpful scientist (Michael Stuhlbarg), and her artistic neighbor (Richard Jenkins), they manage to break out the Amphibian Man from the captivity of their cruel employer (Michael Shannon), who is hot at their heels.
This plot, while simple, keeps the viewer invested in this fast-rolling series of events. While there are parts of the film that slow down, these are all pieces that serve to propel the characters’ backstories further, to gain insight and know more about them. The plot also never gets overly confusing or complex, similar to a fairy tale that would have inspired it (The Little Mermaid or Beauty and the Beast come to mind). Three genres are also used to give this film relevance: Romance, Science Fiction, and Fantasy, which draws in a variety of people to make up the viewing audience.
Something I do take some issue with is that the plot runs out of room near the end. I would have liked more of a denouement, but in this kind of film, maybe one is not needed: sometimes there does not need to be an epilogue. There is also a running subplot with the doctor that does not seem to go anywhere, and yet, my complaints, as I write them, seem invalid because all of these points serve the scenes after them.
My PLOT RATING is 5/5. The story moves fast, yet takes time to savor the characters as if they were people. The film keeps moving and does not stop, though. The genre elements also ground it as familiar, which keeps the audience invested. The plot running out of room is an issue though.
CHARACTERS – The characters in the film also shine. No performance is wasted. I do feel like the doctor’s subplot could be fleshed out more, but that’s about it. I feel like the true stars of the film are Sally Hawkins, who uses accurate and succinct American Sign Language to get her points across throughout the film, and Michael Shannon is in top form, not only being his rage-iest character, but also one of the more complex in the film.
Doug Jones’ mannerisms as the Amphibian man are great, and he captures the tortured and captive emotions really well. Richard Jenkins’ character arc is also very well done and Michael Stuhlbarg’s role is great, but both of them do not give standout performances. They are both character vehicles to serve the story, which is fine. I enjoyed both of their stories fairly well. Octavia Spencer is also a delight, and I always like to see her on screen, though I would have liked to see more to her character.
My CHARACTERS RATING is 4/5. All of the characters are a delight to watch, yet I wish some of them had more powerful scenes or more plot relevance.
SCRIPT – The script, while understated on purpose (letting the visuals shine), also tells exactly what we as an audience needs to hear. A monologue done in the middle of the film done by Sally Hawkins through interpreted Sign Language is a standout, as well as a biblical monologue by Michael Shannon at the end are both standouts. The characters are also communicated incredibly well through the script, and a lot of lines are made great through actor inflection and context.
My SCRIPT RATING is 5/5. It’s wonderful, precise, and to the point. Not much lingers for too long, and it’s bolstered more-so by the acting that brings it to life.
EFFECTS – The creature effects are so good I don’t know whether it is practical or CG. I could also not tell if the water is CG or not either.
My EFFECTS RATING is 5/5. Perfect effects. They look amazing.
The Shape of Water
FINAL RATING: 95/100
FINAL THOUGHTS – The Shape of Water is an incredible film. It looks, feels, and speaks gorgeous. The tone and environment match well, and it has a sense of whimsy to it. The feeling of hope this film gives is astounding, and it plays out like a fairy tale.